Occupy Toronto


in Daily updates, Economics, Politics, Toronto

This afternoon, I had a look at the Occupy Toronto protest that is mirroring Occupy Wall Street in New York.

Most protests for causes vaguely considered ‘left wing’ attract a few people intent on advocating an unrelated cause among people who they hope will be sympathetic. At climate change protests, I have seen people concerned about nuclear weapons, oppression of the Falun Gong, Palestinian statehood, and so on.

Insofar as there were meaningful and coherent messages at Occupy Toronto, they were to reform the financial system and to redistribute income from rich to poor. Mixed in was a lot of generalized anger, and a desire to punish bankers and/or the rich.

Beside the main messages were dozens of other causes that ranged from loosely affiliated to fundamentally contradictory. All told, I question whether Occupy Toronto is coherent enough to deserve to be taken seriously. There doesn’t seem to be an awareness that many of the causes advocated by some protestors clash with the objectives of other protestors. Solidarity is all well and good, but policies ultimately need to get made that support one objective or another.

There are real questions to be asked about financial regulation and redistribution of wealth. I just question whether this movement contributes intelligently to those discussions, or whether it is more a matter of unfocused energy being released.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan October 15, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Any advocates of the occupations who dispute this perspective are encouraged to argue with me.

dp October 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Overly broad protest movements may be a bit like a mule. Half horse and half donkey, they contain a lot of diversity. And yet, they are sterile.

. October 15, 2011 at 6:59 pm

The inkblot protests
A new generation takes to the barricades. They should pay more attention to the ballot box

Oct 8th 2011 | from the print edition

IN TAHRIR SQUARE and Homs, Egyptians and Syrians have risked their lives to demand basic democratic freedoms. In Britain, that nation of shopkeepers, the young take to the streets to smash windows and steal trainers and television sets. Greeks are rioting because they can see their economic future being washed down the drain of the euro. And for the past few weeks in New York City many hundreds and sometimes thousands of young Americans have been marching, or camping out in Zuccotti Park in the financial district, to “Occupy Wall Street”, because they are demanding—well, what exactly?

To judge by the diversity of their slogans, placards and websites, you pays your money (metaphorically) and you takes your choice. But there is no mistaking the gist.

These people do not believe that the business of America should be business. A “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City” summons all those who feel “wronged by the corporate forces of the world”. Corporations “place profit over people”, “run our governments”, take bail-outs “with impunity”, poison the food supply, block green energy, “perpetuate colonialism at home and abroad”, muzzle the media and use student loans to “hold students hostage”. The protests have already spread to Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, and were this week heading towards the nation’s capital. Explicitly invoking the spirit of Tahrir Square, the organisers of a rally planned for Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC, are demanding “just solutions to the crises we face”. In “creative acts of civil resistance” demonstrators will demand peace, freedom and “inherent rights”, including the inherent right “to grow edible natural food”.

. October 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm

What are the demands of the protesters?

Ugh—the zillion-dollar question. Again, the original Adbusters call asked, “What is our one demand?” Technically, there isn’t one yet. In the weeks leading up to September 17, the NYC General Assembly seemed to be veering away from the language of “demands” in the first place, largely because government institutions are already so shot through with corporate money that making specific demands would be pointless until the movement grew stronger politically. Instead, to begin with, they opted to make their demand the occupation itself—and the direct democracy taking place there—which in turn may or may not come up with some specific demand. When you think about it, this act is actually a pretty powerful statement against the corruption that Wall Street has come to represent. But since thinking is often too much to ask of the American mass media, the question of demands has turned into a massive PR challenge.
The General Assembly is currently in the midst of determining how it will come to consensus about unifying demands. It’s a really messy and interesting discussion. But don’t hold your breath.

Everyone in the plaza comes with their own way of thinking about what they’d like to see happen, of course. Along the north end of the plaza, there’s a collage of hundreds of cardboard signs people have made with slogans and demands on them. Bystanders stop and look at them, transfixed, all day long. The messages are all over the place, to be sure, but there’s also a certain coherence to them. That old standby, “People Before Profits,” seems to capture the gist fairly well. But also under discussion are a variety of other issues, ranging from ending the death penalty, to dismantling the military-industrial complex, to affordable healthcare, to more welcoming immigration policies. And more. It can be confusing, but then again these issues are all at some level interconnected.

Some news reports have been painting the protesters as unfocused, or worse, as hopelessly confused and uninformed. Is there any truth to that?

Sure. In a world as complex as ours, we’re all uninformed about most things, even if we know about a few. I remember a police officer remarking of the protesters on the first or second day, “They think they know everything!” That’s how young people generally are. But in this case, noticing the over-concentration of wealth around Wall Street and its outsized influence in politics does not require a detailed grasp of what a hedge fund does or the current selling price of Apple stock. One thing that distinguishes these protesters is precisely their hope that a better world is possible. I might add that, for many Americans, such nonviolent direct action is the only chance of having a political voice, and it deserves to be taken seriously by those of us in the press.

. October 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Right Here All Over (Occupy Wall St.)
by Alex Mallis

A new angle on Occupy Wall Street reveals the strong micro community that has formed there.

Directed by Alex Mallis + Lily Henderson
Cinematography by Ed David
Edited by Lily Henderson + Alex Mallis
Assistant Camera: Andrew McMullen + Diana Eliavoz
Assistant Producers: Dana Salvatore + Jillian Mason
Titles by Jason Drakeford
Music by Loscil

. October 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm
Milan October 16, 2011 at 1:42 am

A Canadian who is much more knowledgeable about economics than I am thinks the protests are “entirely constructive”.

. October 16, 2011 at 1:46 am

The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and other expressions of frustration with the global economic and financial system highlight the need for policy makers to show they are serious about forcing change, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney says.

In a television interview, Mr. Carney acknowledged that the movement is an understandable product of the “increase in inequality’’ – particularly in the United States – that started with globalization and was thrust into sharp relief by the worst downturn since the Great Depression, which hit the less well-educated and blue-collar segments of the population hardest.

oleh October 16, 2011 at 3:02 am

I am fine that there are not coherant and specific goalsThe value may lie of the Occupy movement may be in raising general awareness and consciousness. The breadth of the demonstrations in 20 Canadian cities is doing that. For Mark Carney, Bank of Canada governor, to take note of them reflects that the Movement may also have effect on decision makers.

benito October 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Corporate Greed? Need to identify specifics for the populace to understand the objective of the protest, particularly in Toronto.

For example; Look on the monthly auto insurance premium that we torontonians are paying on the same car vis a vis other major cities in the world. Is it too risky to drive in toronto? or the insurance company too greedy to safeguard their profit? Compare your monthly car insurance premium to your monthly car loan amortization or monthly car lease to understand how insurance companies was frying us in our own fats.

Tristan October 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm

It doesn’t make any sense to judge the coherence of the protest by what you see on the first day. This is not a protest, it is a protest movement – which seeks to develop a coherent message through a continual struggle and democratic participation.

I was there most of Sunday, and it was nothing like Saturday. Not to say that it immediately became a coherent movement, but much of the “Oh, let’s have a day in the park and see what is happening” was over and many people there are living there, and intend to stay.

The individualized nature of modern society guarantees that it is difficult for many people to get together and form common opposition to the powers that control politics, media, and capital. This is partly because we all benefit from the existing system, more or less – certainly if we compare ourselves to people living under US occupation or under US backed dictatorships where US weapons are used against the people when they speak out against the regime and gather en masse in public places.

It’s perfectly possible that the protest movement will fail, but it doesn’t make sense to make any judgements right now. What makes sense now is, if you believe in the possibility of reform and you believe it is not only preferable but required, to participate to the extent that you are able.

The kinds of analysis that are helpful now is descriptions of the challenges that the movement faces, and ideas about how those challenges could be met. The kind of analyses which expresses doubt of the kind which will enable one to feel self-actualized in looking back and saying, “I predicted the failure of this movement”.

Milan October 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Whether it is desirable for the movement to succeed or not depends on the objectives they choose. Reducing the odds of future banking crises is desirable. Of course, whether effective and positive reform of the financial system can be achieved in this way is questionable in itself.

. October 17, 2011 at 6:43 pm

SPAIN’S Indignados have been protesting against the gloomy economic situation in which they find themselves since May. They have been joined by similar movements from New York to Sydney. The protesters’ preoccupations vary from place to place, as do the economic data that underpin them. Education is the focus in Chile, frustration with bankers in Britain. But they do share a common demand: someone, somewhere, should do something to right the problems of global capitalism as currently constituted. One reason why these protests are so interesting is that their targets, those cheerleaders for globalisation, capitalism and free markets, tend to agree that the system needs fixing. This makes the ‘occupy’ protests, as they have come to be known in the English-speaking world, hard to argue against.

. October 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm

October 17, 2011, 10:57 am
The Geography of Occupying Wall Street (And Everywhere Else)

How the Occupy Wall Street protests are distributed throughout the United States may reveal something about the political orientation of the protesters.

oleh October 18, 2011 at 6:48 am

I agree with Tristan that it is too early to tell what effect the Occupy movement will have. Because the participants have such varied goals, it will also be difficult to measure the effect. I expect it already is having an effect. An aspect of the movement that I respect to date is that it is by and large it has been non-violent.

Tristan October 18, 2011 at 10:49 am

I think in one important way the occupy movement has already been successful, or rather already achieved one important success: it has allowed people in north america to feel that something like a popular movement is possible not only in the abstract, or far away in the middle east or Spain, but in their own cities. Personally, although I might have acknowledged logically that something like this was possible, before I saw it with my own eyes I never felt that it was possible – and emotional attitudes towards possibilities play a huge role in politics. If people “feel” that something is possible, it might be the case that it is this feeling that tips the scales to make it actually possible.

. October 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Should Occupy Wall Street Take Up Arms?
Christopher Watt / Maisonnueve / Oct 2011

“It’s striking that for all the talk about polarization in the US, the Tea Party Movement and Occupy Wall Street are entirely non-violent. Overseas, no one expected the Arab Spring protests to be as nonviolent as they were,” Pinker wrote in an email. The threat of overwhelming reprisal from authorities may have brought some peace to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England, but Pinker also pointed to research that, today, “nonviolent protest movements achieve their aims far more often than violent ones.” Still, the story of violence’s decline contains much violence, and America is no exception.

Milan October 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm

it has allowed people in north america to feel that something like a popular movement is possible not only in the abstract, or far away in the middle east or Spain, but in their own cities

Keeping my skeptical hat on, it seems fair to ask how ‘popular’ the movement really is. While the participants claim to represent 99% of the population, that claim cannot be accepted at face value.

Ultimately, the degree to which the ideas that emerge from the movement will have popular support can only be known when (and if) a coherent set of policy prescriptions is decided upon.

It is possible to argue that the movement is serving the interests of the 99% even if it doesn’t have their active support, but that claim also seems quite empty while the demands of the movement remain so undefined.

. October 20, 2011 at 10:33 am

The defining aspect of Occupy Wall Street, its emphasis on direct action and leaderless, consensus-based decision-making, is most clearly embodied by its General Assembly, in which participants in the protest make group decisions both large and small, like adopting principles of solidarity and deciding how best to stay warm at night.

This intensive and egalitarian process is important both procedurally and substantively, Mr. Graeber says. “One of the things that revolutionaries have learned over the course of the 20th century is that the idea of the ends justifying the means is deeply problematic,” he says. “You can’t create a just society through violence, or freedom through a tight revolutionary cadre. You can’t establish a big state and hope it will go away. The means and ends have to be the same.”

When 2,000 people make a decision jointly, it is an example of direct action, or direct democracy, Mr. Graeber says. “It makes you feel different to go to a meeting where your opinions are really respected.” Or, as an editorial in the protest’s house publication, Occupied Wall Street Journal, put it, “This occupation is first about participation.”


. October 20, 2011 at 10:34 am

“Even given a climate of ideological similarity, this mode of communal egalitarian living doesn’t tend to scale up well beyond a few hundred people, and requires intense and often invasive surveillance and monitoring to minimise free-riding, as well as heavy communal pressure to maintain the kind of conformity of belief necessary to maintain ongoing consensus. This is not, to my mind, a beautiful dream. Anyway, insofar as people are serious about it, egalitarian participatory democracy points in the direction of radical decentralisation and hyper-local control. The immense scope and diversity of the American territory and population, as well as the vast scale of the American state and the number and complexity of its activities, are fundamentally incompatible with the kind of society now being performed by the romantics in Zuccotti Park.

Moreover, direct deliberative democracy by its very nature puts effective power disproportionately in the hands of extroverted, energetic, and charismatic individuals with a knack for persuasion. The opinions of introverts and those of us who need a good deal of time to mull things over tend not to be fully included into the decision-making process. So these people (most of us, I think) must go along, their views systematically underrepresented until the rule of the pushy yammerers becomes too intolerable and they leave. Exit is more powerful than voice if voice is not your strong suit.”

. October 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

For although China is home to 22.8 per cent of the world’s adults, the Chinese collectively hold less than three per cent of the world’s wealth (though that has no doubt grown since 2000). The Indians, with 15.4 per cent of the global population, have just 0.9 per cent of global household wealth. And Africa, with 10.2 per cent of the world’s adults, is home to only one per cent of the planet’s wealth.

The irony? The financial districts of Beijing, Mumbai and Nairobi, last time I checked, aren’t teeming with people yearning for the downfall of capitalism. Indeed, an attempt to launch Occupy Mumbai this week fizzled and died. That’s because, to most Indians, capitalism means investment and possibly a better job.

Anon October 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

The Occupy Movement may be somewhat incoherent and based around anger, but surely it was more incoherent before people started gathering together and talking to one another.

Before the General Assemblies began, lots of people were just living their lives frustrated and disgusted with the state of the political and economic system.

Irshad Mahmood October 21, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Tips to Save Global World from Worst Economic Disasters
By Irshad Mahmood

Global World is facing a Global Economic Disaster and needs a Global Revolution. It is not Wealth (Gold or Silver) or Power which can save the Global World. Allah seized Qaroon, Pharaoh, and Hamaan and many more, for their crimes against humanity and nothing could save them, not even their wealth, power, or people, etc. The World didn’t end there, but it re-developed after a Great Revolution. Those who have never faced poverty may never understand its solution. It is 100% guaranteed to save the world and to help build our Global World. Those who truly love the humanity can re-develop the world through their own Great Revolution. In simple terms “NO CHANGES WITHOUT ACTIONS”!

It is time now to open our eyes and correct ourselves to serve the humanity in a revolutionized way, in which all including Rich & Poor can live safe and sound, in a balanced way.

Tips to Save Global World to build a Whole New World in a Balanced Way:

Tip-1: Convert All Currencies to Gold as a Single Global Currency.
Remember: You cannot buy whole world from the Gold, since it is a little tiny part of the Global World and it is just a reference point.

Tip-2: FREEZE all which is unbalancing the Global World keeping in mind How Much is Too Much:
a> Interest Base System
b> Supply & Demand System
c> Alcohol Supply
d> All kind of Drugs Intoxication
e> Gambling
f> Over spending
g> Over Stocking of Wealth which includes Foods, Currency or other Sustains etc.

Tip-3: Re-Analyze each and every thing to bring Global Stability in a Revolutionized Way.
We already have over a hundred years of data and modern tools as Great Assets to start with.

Tip-4: Food should be supplied in a balanced way. Make sure no one is dying of hunger.

Tip-5: Health Care Benefits should be available in a balanced way.
Make sure no one is without required Health Care.

Tip-6: Percent increase in Salary must be changed with a balanced system.
Since, percent increase is one of cause to increase the gap between rich and poor.

Tip-7: Loans must be avoided as much as possible.

Tip-8: Educate all for Free, including hands on training, to build a Whole New World.
Make sure all Education is of ONE Global Standard, regardless of any discrimination.

Tip-9: Finally start working on cosmetics and beauty to build our Whole New World.

Tip-10: Media MUST play an Active Role in promoting all of the above to Build Whole New World.

Locally, I am Sorry. Globally, YES we can fix Global System with 100% Guaranteed.

Thinking locally while living in Global World will not save our Global World.
Repeatedly Relying on the Same Corrupted or Incompetent Person will NOT Change the Fortune of a Nation.
Do not even think to re-appoint those who were failed to protect the corruptions in the land.

oleh October 22, 2011 at 12:45 am

I spent an hour at the Occupy Vancouver site, including attending a General Assembly and trying to get some information. I wanted to get a pamphlet or something to share with a student who was writing about the site. I started with the education tent, who directed me to the information tent, who directed me to the media tent. In the end, none provided anything which set out goals other than shohwing me a card with the Unity Statement. The General Assembly was equally unfocussed. I had not better idea of the purpose after spending the hour there. It does seem a problem.

In the end the relative idealism of the goals, which I expected, did not come through when I attended on site.

. October 22, 2011 at 3:14 pm
Milan October 22, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I think the ‘Occupy’ movement puts too much emphasis on a superficial form of democracy – where everyone is able to express their opinion – while placing too little emphasis on detailed research and policy development. An incoherent mob is not going to develop sophisticated plans to improve the stability of the financial system, or redistribute income, or do anything else of consequence.

Tristan October 24, 2011 at 2:01 am

I think you might want to look more closely at the way the occupy movement is structured, with its committees and working groups, rather than simply understanding it as an incoherent mob.

. October 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

The first day of Occupy Vancouver. The crowd gathers in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery in the heart of downtown.

The Occupy Vancouver protesters march for economic justice on Howe St.

. October 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Financial Markets with Professor Robert Shiller

Financial institutions are a pillar of civilized society, supporting people in their productive ventures and managing the economic risks they take on. The workings of these institutions are important to comprehend if we are to predict their actions today and their evolution in the coming information age. The course strives to offer understanding of the theory of finance and its relation to the history, strengths and imperfections of such institutions as banking, insurance, securities, futures, and other derivatives markets, and the future of these institutions over the next century.

dp October 26, 2011 at 7:34 pm

The protestors do have something of a point:

. October 26, 2011 at 8:09 pm

[O]ver 1m adult Americans (0.5% of the total) say they attempted suicide in the past year.

. October 29, 2011 at 10:25 am

To the man-in-the-street, all this smacks of a system that has failed. Neither of the main Western models has much political credit at the moment. European social democracy promised voters benefits that societies can no longer afford. The Anglo-Saxon model claimed that free markets would create prosperity; many voters feel instead that they got a series of debt-fuelled asset bubbles and an economy that was rigged in favour of a financial elite, who took all the proceeds in the good times and then left everybody else with no alternative other than to bail them out. To use one of the protesters’ better slogans, the 1% have gained at the expense of the 99%.

. October 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

In more than one sense, the protest can seem misplaced. Some of the biggest financial firms left Wall Street for midtown Manhattan years ago. Aside from the hallmark “We are the 99%”, the placards on display cover a huge range of causes, many of which have nothing to do with the underpricing of risk, moral hazard and other faults, real or imagined, of financial capitalism. Some want to tax the rich, others to decertify business schools. Hostile references to Wal-Mart and Starbucks outnumber those to any Wall Street firms.

. October 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm

British Christian groups have vowed to protect the Occupy London tent-city out front of St Paul’s cathedral by surrounding it with a “circle of prayer” in the event that the cathedral attempts to evict the protesters.

. October 31, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Two hours at #Occupywallstreet
BLOG POST posted on October 31, 2011 by tlaing

Yesterday morning I spent a few hours at #occupywallstreet. It seems a bit silly – to drive more than two thousand kilometers over a weekend and only spend a few minutes at the ground zero of the occupy movement, but for complex reasons and the fact I was travelling with a dozen others, this is what was possible for me.

Even in such a short time, I was able to gather some significant impressions. The first thing I noticed was that the park where the protestors are located is very small – significantly smaller than St. James park in Toronto where the occupy movement is centred here. The park is covered with tents, but I’d say that in general the Toronto site is more impressive – more developed food tent, more shelter, more tents, more space. But, the impressiveness of the site itself is not the point of the occupy movement – the fact is that occupation has been going on much longer (since sept 27th, not oct 15th), and their general assemblies are much larger than ours (although I did not actually get to attend one).

oleh November 3, 2011 at 5:04 am

I spent about 45 minutes at the 7 pm General Assembly of \occupy Vnacouver yesterday. (My second time). These occur twice a day to provide forum for discussion and decision makin. There were about 50 people in the actual circle. More on the periphery.

My observations included:
1. the general youth of the crowd (in their twenties and thirties)
2. the extent to which concensus governed – which created good feeling and very slow decision making
3. the idealism both regarding the process and the discussion.

DieterHH November 3, 2011 at 3:58 pm

The “occupy … ” protesters seem a bunchg of lost souls who grew up in front of TV screens watching “Reality TV “, and were promoted through our education system without the necessity or stress of actually learning. If they want to protest they should do so in front of our political institutions, not denigrate the capitalist system which provides the wealth, goods and services that support our society and life styles. The financial debacles in the USA and EU ( Greece et al .. ) were ultimately caused by political failures of governance, deficit spending and debt, political promises of “freebies” to buy our votes with borrowed money. My advice: don’t sit on your buts “protesting” but learn something that pays, move to where the cost of living is lower and where the jobs are, be prepared to get your hands dirty. If you think a general B.A. in some vaguely academic topic qualifies you for a well paying professional career you have been sold a bill of goods by the university establishment. Welcome to a minimum wage hamburger future.

. November 3, 2011 at 5:34 pm

“The focus has shifted from issues to building more structures.

This movement has to gain credibility and it can’t do that by woodworking,” the SFU communications graduate said.

Ms. Reyes said she’s talked to other early organizers who have left as well because they’re frustrated with the protest’s inability to develop strategies or take stands on important political issues.

Although a general assembly may vote one day to oppose the Conservative government’s proposed new crime bill, nothing happens after that, she said.

And something that one general assembly votes on one day can be rejected by another group the next day.

Instead, the campers are directing a lot of energy to logistics: providing 2,500 vegan meals a day and improving their living quarters.

. November 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Braver politicians would focus on two things. The first is tackling the causes of the rage speedily. Above all that means doing more to get their economies moving again. A credible solution to the euro crisis would be a huge start. More generally, focus on policies that boost economic growth: trade less austerity in the short term for medium-term adjustments, such as a higher retirement age. Make sure the rich pay their share, but in a way that makes economic sense: you can boost the tax take from the wealthy by eliminating loopholes while simultaneously lowering marginal rates. Reform finance vigorously. “Move to Basel 3 and higher capital requirements” is not a catchy slogan, but it would do far more to shrink bonuses on Wall Street than most of the ideas echoing across from Zuccotti Park.

The second is telling the truth—especially about what went wrong. The biggest danger is that legitimate criticisms of the excesses of finance risk turning into an unwarranted assault on the whole of globalisation. It is worth remembering that the epicentre of the 2008 disaster was American property, hardly a free market undistorted by government. For all the financiers’ faults (“too big to fail”, the excessive use of derivatives and the rest of it), the huge hole in most governments’ finances stems less from bank bail-outs than from politicians spending too much in the boom and making promises to do with pensions and health care they never could keep. Look behind much of the current misery—from high food prices to the lack of jobs for young Spaniards—and it has less to do with the rise of the emerging world than with state interference.

. November 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm

To the man-in-the-street, all this smacks of a system that has failed. Neither of the main Western models has much political credit at the moment. European social democracy promised voters benefits that societies can no longer afford. The Anglo-Saxon model claimed that free markets would create prosperity; many voters feel instead that they got a series of debt-fuelled asset bubbles and an economy that was rigged in favour of a financial elite, who took all the proceeds in the good times and then left everybody else with no alternative other than to bail them out. To use one of the protesters’ better slogans, the 1% have gained at the expense of the 99%.

If the grievances are more legitimate and broader than previous rages against the machine, then the dangers are also greater. Populist anger, especially if it has no coherent agenda, can go anywhere in times of want. The 1930s provided the most terrifying example. A more recent (and less frightening) case study is the tea party. The justified fury of America’s striving middle classes against a cumbersome state has in practice translated into a form of obstructive nihilism: nothing to do with taxes can get through Washington, including tax reform.

. November 8, 2011 at 10:10 am

It is remarkable to me how readily old, successful professionals dismiss the labour-market difficulties of young adults as the product of their poorly-chosen majors and general lack of ambition, and on what flimsy evidence they’re prepared to base these views. There are now 3.3m unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34. That’s more than twice the level in 2007. There are over 2m unemployed college graduates of all ages; nearly three times the level of 2007. There are many millions more that are underemployed—unwillingly working less than full-time or unwillingly working in a job outside their field which pays less than jobs in their field. As far as I know, the distribution of college majors didn’t swing dramatically from quantitative fields to art history over the past half decade.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal provides us with a handy interactive graphic examining unemployment rates by major according to the 2010 Census. Coming in toward the top of the list and ahead of “art history and criticism” are the sorts of degrees you’d expect, like those falling into “miscellaneous fine arts”, but also “computer administration management and security”, “engineering and industrial management”, “international business”, “electrical and mechanic repairs and technologies”, “materials engineering and materials science”, “genetics”, “neuroscience”, “biochemical sciences”, and “computer engineering”. I bet those graduates are all trying to break into puppetry!

I am sure that many young graduates feel entitled to better work than they’ve managed to find, and some of them probably chose poorly when it came time to matriculate. But I see little evidence that high unemployment is due to the shiftlessness of youths and far more evidence that high youth unemployment is due to systematic weakness in labour markets associated with a shortfall in aggregate demand.

. November 8, 2011 at 10:16 am

The increasingly confrontational tactics of various OWS offshoots risks not only “distracting” voters from the message behind the movement, but risks tainting the message itself and generating a backlash. Peaceful OWS protestors can disavow the violence and vandalism in Oakland all they like, but I’m afraid most Americans have so little patience for public disorder that their willingness to distinguish between the peaceful heart of OWS and its combative fringes will wear very thin very quickly. That’s why I’d bet my lunch money that public support for OWS erodes over the next few weeks.

Americans disagree sharply about a whole array of issues, but we expect to work out our disagreements in a civilised fashion, with a minimum of social disturbance. To assemble peaceably is a basic American right and a venerable tradition. To get together and aggressively antagonise other people peaceably assembled because you’ve decided they’re the enemy is not.

As long as the Occupy movement remains without acknowledged leaders who can credibly distance it from the worst behaviour of its least reasonable affiliates, the movement will increasingly come to be defined by its most egregious episodes. And if the sort of bad behaviour we’ve seen in Oakland and Washington doesn’t soon come to an end, OWS could easily end up more albatross than asset to the left.

DieterHH November 8, 2011 at 6:55 pm

The labour market difficulties obviously have many causes, but it would seem to this “successful professional” that the protesters have been misguided by the nanny state that passed them through the public education system without the stress of actually understanding reality. Subsequently the “University” mantra led them to study fringe topics, or attend fringe professional degree mills. And they and everybody else miss the fundamental issue entirely – financial illiterates that they are. Capitalism is NOT the problem, it produces the resources upon which our Western lifestyles are based. The matter of “fair” distribution is a matter of politics and governance, THAT IS WHAT HAS FAILED ! The protesters should camp in front of their political institutions which have failed in their governance responsibilities and borrowed too much money to buy votes. Of course the politicians are only too grateful to have those capitalist swine take the flak – thus the protests remain futile without effect. And the protesters need to apreciate that it might be necessary to cut mom’s apron strings and move to where the jobs are, learn something that employers need, or the ultimate insult added to injury – join the capitalists and start a busines. That is where all those millionaires are .-)

oleh November 9, 2011 at 2:02 am

My third attendance at an Occupy Vancouver general assembly. The mood has definitely changed. On the heels of a fatality, perhaps by drug overdose, the city will be seeking an injunction tomorrow to remove the tents. The mood at the General Assembly was definitely more somber. There was little talk of ideals. Rather the focus was on the potential closing down of the permanent nature of this encampment and how to potentially resist it in court. I was pleased to hear no talk of violent resistance.

Milan November 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Even though I have been skeptical about the usefulness of the ‘occupy’ movement from the beginning, I think it is unfortunate to see it unravelling in this way.

There are certainly important factual and ethical arguments being made by members of the movement. Those arguments risk being discredited in the eyes of the general public if the actual ‘occupy’ sites continue to experience safety problems, confrontations with the police, etc.

Even though the movement lacks a consistent message, they do not deserve to be completely discredited because they cannot run orderly encampments in spite of hostility from some outside forces.

. November 9, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Few tears being shed for crumbling Occupy movement

With legitimate civil discourse having evaporated some time ago, the Occupy movement in Canada would seem to be on its last tent pegs. The camps are coming down, and with them will fall the outward symbol of Occupy’s ultimately doomed-to-fail protest.

City officials in London, Ont., were the first to send in police to remove Occupy campers set up in a park there. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, meantime, had lawyers in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday in a bid to get an injunction to end the controversial three-week-old Occupy squat taking place on the grounds of the art gallery.

. November 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Arrests as Halifax cops evict Occupy protesters

Halifax police arrested 14 people Friday and began taking down tents at the site of a local Occupy Nova Scotia protest, hours after the city marked Remembrance Day.

At the city’s request, about 250 protesters had recently moved to Victoria Park from the nearby cenotaph, which is site of the city’s annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

Police began dismantling the park encampment after the city announced Friday that protesters were breaking bylaws and had to leave.

“While the Halifax Regional Municipality has respected the Occupy Nova Scotia participants’ right to a peaceful assembly and their right to have their issues known publicly, it is now time to return Victoria Park, the Grand Parade and other HRM parks to the public at large,” the statement said.

Police Chief Frank Beazley said that the arrested protesters could face obstruction charges.

DieterHH November 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm

The Occupy Wall Street protest parade displayed signs ” Capitalism Doesn’t Work ” and ” A Job is a Right ” ( if my memory serves me correctly ). Given such display of economic ignorance and entitlement merely serves to discredit any message the protesters may have had. There is a problem – but it is NOT capitalism. ( Try Communism .-). The nanny state and its nomenklatura have raised a generation of wimps who expect life to be handed to them on a platter, who have never had to make sacrifices or experienced deprivation. Their uncritical acceptance of pervasive political flim flam, education establisment propaganda and social service entitlements have entirely brain washed them with life style expectations nourished by flat panel TV tabloid fodder. To wit: protesting and trying to live in tents in city parks just before winter illustrates my point better than anything I could think of saying here ! The real problem is our political complacency which permitted ( even encouraged ) our system of governance to be highjacked by political hacks, incompetent to manage/govern complex financial affairs, and of abysmal cultural and historical ignorance leading to the wars in the ME. Only on the day that voters take their responsibilities seriously and stop selling their ballots to the most egregious lunatic celebrity promiser of instant riches and freebies will there be change, not before.

oleh November 11, 2011 at 9:55 pm

I think the Occupy Movement initially raised interesting questions and awareness. It was that with the passage of time the image of idealistic young people waned as it settled into an encampment of people who lacked focus in their lives. I believe its goals would have been better served with a focussed two week period. At the end it could have had a significant rally – acting like an exclamation period. In Vancouver, it could have been a rally of 4000 or so people like when the day it started.

Milan November 11, 2011 at 10:07 pm

The ‘no leaders’ model probably impairs the ability of the Occupy protests to plan strategically. Also, I think it was always meant as a somewhat open-ended undertaking.

. November 12, 2011 at 12:29 am
. November 12, 2011 at 12:47 am

“Every last one of the 200 eviction notices handed out earlier” were destroyed by angry Occupy Oakland protesters, according to Inside Bay Area. But don’t worry, you can read the full text here.

DieterHH November 12, 2011 at 8:11 am

oleh: … the image of idealistic young people waned as it settled into an encampment of people who lacked focus in their lives…. Exactly ! Too bad the effort was entirely misguided and excruciatingly naive. There is a problem in our financial system – but caused by excessive GOVERNMENT politically motivated borrowing, thus becoming beholden to the lending institutions ( EU and USA .. ) and their political influence. The bonuses gathered by the financial types are mere play money. Being up to our eyeballs in government debt restricts social policy options to “zilch” and in effect transfers governance power to the manipulators of the fiancial system. While you are shovelling the snow off your tents they in turn relax with a cool one on their mega yachts and laugh. Message – force your politicos to stop borrowing and peddling “freebies”, only then will we regain control of our lives and evolve a more just society.

Milan November 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

The banking industry is not at all innocent in all of this.

They encouraged the kind of super-risky loans that eventually caused the subprime crisis, and they also created the new financial structures that were at the heart of the crisis.

There are many investment classes that are good for the people who set them up and manage them, but not for the people who buy them and definitely not for the system as a whole.

Financial institutions have failed to manage risk well, as demonstrated by how some have failed and others have required bailouts. Some of their profit-making strategies are also highly dubious.

DieterHH November 12, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Milan: .. The banking industry is not at all innocent in all of this. ……. Of course not – BUT – the so called housing bubble was ENCOURAGED and motivated by Fanny Mae et al to facilitate home ownership, driven by political considerations to garner votes, thus creating the infamous NINJA mortgages. Banking and investment deregulation was also condoned by government ( G. Bush & Co. ) to the detriment of system integrity. The matter of junk investment paper ( NINJA mortgages mixed with investment grade, then rated AAA ) was at bottom a criminal activity which should have been prosecuted as such. Insofar as all these matters are ultimately subject to sovereign federal ( USA ) governance it was in fact a political failure at the highest level to encourage and permit and legalize this financial flim flam in the first place. For the political leadership ( including Greenspan ) to now claim innocense and ignorance, and like everybody else point at Wall Street merely is a convenient diversion from the root cause.

Milan November 12, 2011 at 3:26 pm

It seems fair to say that I sufficiently regulated financial institutions will always exploit people and introduce instability into the economy. As such, governments do have a duty to regulate effectively.

At the same time, it is fair to criticize institutions that engage in exploitation and create instability. They are not entities outside the scope of moral consideration. They can be legitimately condemned when they act in selfish and damaging ways, even if government inaction and deregulation have helped make them free to do so.

DieterHH November 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Milan: … insufficiently regulated financial institutions will always exploit people and introduce instability …… Fair enough – but applies equally well to power hungry politicians and their cliques. As for terminology such as “moral” and “exploitation” – they are emotionally loaded words that merely divert from the larger issues. It is the sole objective of busines to make a profit, a metric of creating wealth/resources in support of our taxation system and lifestyle. Even the higher level financial transactions ( Wall Street … ) serve to optimize market liquidity and thereby economic efficiency. The street level problem is that our public education system continues to graduate financial illiterates who , not understanding financial metrics and instruments, do not know how to deal with reality. Thus sign NINJA mortgages and away goes the housing bubble food chain. Or vote for politicians who promise social services which in fact we cannot afford. Or …. The ultimate worst case example is “Greece”. Now students are rioting because they finally have to pay tuition ! Guess what – who did they think should pay ?? Public sector workers protesting because their cushy jobs, paid for with borrowed money, are no longer secure. We do live in a democracy and nobody forces us to vote for incompetents, or sign insane mortgages, or borrow until we go bankrupt. Beware the Nanny state – those who claim to look after you merely join the nomenklatura and in fact look after themselves first (Communism). “Insufficient Regulation” is a POLITICAL failure, a matter of leadership incompetence and spoiled brat voters, Wall Street is merely being efficient within those constraints .-)

Milan November 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Firms that blow themselves up and require public bailouts are not being efficient – they are being incompetent.

The many failures of banks and other financial institutions during the subprime crisis seem like pretty good evidence that these firms do not understand the risks they are taking on, do not understand systemic risk, and do not operate efficiently within their regulatory environment.

To say that government sets the rules and firms then operate as automatons under them ignores the many important complexities of both the financial and political system. Firms are not passive agents that just accept the rules – they actively lobby for changes. Nor are they rational entities that make efficient choices given a particular regulatory environment – they have considerable scope to adopt either low-risk or high-risk approaches, and they make many choices that have moral relevance.

Anon November 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Bankers are in an enviable position.

When they do well, they get paid enormous bonuses.

When they do badly, their mistakes get paid for by ordinary citizens, and then they get enormous bonuses.

Because banks drag down the rest of the economy when they fail, they are perfectly positioned to force other people to pay for their screw-ups.

. November 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Pros and cons of the protests

SIR – Lexington was right to point out that the Occupy Wall Street protests are not America’s Tahrir Square (October 8th). Where he was wrong was thinking that American democracy, with its permanent campaigns, is “exquisitely sensitive” to voters’ wants. The opposite is true: protesters have taken to the street out of frustration with both sides of our bitterly divided government. We perceive a downward trajectory for our lives, which is likely to become even steeper for our children.

Face it, American workers were far better off before our economy became globalised and dominated by the financial-services industry. Since these two trends are unlikely to be reversed, the wealth that is generated must mitigate the effect on workers.

Janet Clegg
Riverside, California  

SIR – The people camping out in Zuccotti Park are not downtrodden workers or hard-pressed homeowners (who might actually have genuine gripes). Douglas Schoen, a pollster who worked for Bill Clinton, surveyed 200 protesters at the site. He found that half of them are politically active and nearly a third would engage in violence to achieve their aims. A large majority are bound together by a deep opposition to capitalism and want protectionist trade policies. A recent article in Mother Jones on the roots of Occupy Wall Street says “credit” is often given to Adbusters, a “Canadian anti-capitalist magazine”, for calling for America’s “Tahrir moment”.

Roger Kimball, in a forthcoming essay, lists the similarities between the Zuccotti Park crowd and the 1960s generation, Jerry Rubin’s “permanent adolescents”. Now, as then, we are witness to, “incoherent childlessness and pathetic exhibitionism” from activists.

These are the same old agitators pushing the same old agenda that they can never attain through the ballot box: destroy capitalism.

Jorge Mendez
New York

. November 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm

DieterHH November 13, 2011 at 1:52 am

Milan: … Firms that blow themselves up and require public bailouts are not being efficient – they are being incompetent. ……… Quite so – so why do they get bailed out ?! Not because they are efficiently incompetent or criminal. That is not the point. The point is that such failures, e.g. the Big 3 and/or Wall Street get bailed out because of POLITICAL pressure, e.g. UAW ( union votes ) or financial domino threats. Nobody actually responsible wants to take the $$B hair cuts so they get on the phone to their favorite politician and threaten them with hell fire and brim stone. Then the typical politician caves in and in effect condones subsidizing failure at the ultimate expense of the general tax payer. Why do you think there are dire threats about Greek insolvency ? Not because Greece actually matters ( a tiny country ) but because the financial institution propaganda and fear mongering is designed to spread the pain in the hope of sucking tax payers dry instead of the investors who loaned the funds without due diligence. We must have the political courage to let such egregious examples of incompetence and/or criminality ACTUALLY FAIL. It might be painful short term but what a wonderful lesson to the system, voters and financiers. Instead we refuse to learn but print and borrow more money to “create jobs”. Borrowing gets us into these rat holes in the first place, then pray tell why is more borrowing going to cure the problem ?????

Milan November 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

The “financial domino threats” you mention are not trivial.

In the case of Greece, for instance, an uncoordinated default could spark successive defaults in Italy and other Euro-zone countries. These could be big enough to threaten the whole currency.

Banks and other financial firms threaten the whole economy when they fail. As such, they need to be carefully regulated.

The people who run them also deserve strong public criticism when they behave recklessly, incompetently, and/or in illegal ways.

DieterHH November 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Milan: .. The “financial domino threats” you mention are not trivial. …… I merely wish to make the point that until now we ( our politicians ) have always bailed out those “too large to fail”. But this begs the obvious question ” Are they ?”. It would seem to me that not permitting some criminal and/or incompetent entities to actually fail – with the attendant publicity – nobody learns any lessons or pays attention. Thus bail outs become embedded as economic policy under the guise of stimulus spending, usually based on government borrowed money. Since when does borrowing even more money cure the original disease of too much debt ?? The present situation of too big to fail ( domino effect ) arose because we did not permit such failure in the past when it would have sent a message to the perpetrators. A Greek default in isolation would have negligible impact in the EU if it were not for the fact that Italy and Spain are also in a similar rat hole and on the brink. And why would anybody ever lend money to the Greeks in the first place given that their finance ministry was a standing joke and they entered the EU by a swindle ? The EU is a collection of political fiefdoms half of which are run by incompetents and basically bankrupt, duly elected by democratic processes. No amount of bail outs in isolation will adress this larger issue. This might give democracy a bad name .-) Lastly a pet question of mine: Why would any competent executive enter a political career given that his compensation would be trivial and spoiled brat voter flak ruin his private life ? Thus our governance ends up in the hands of second tier wanna-bes who think printing money is economic policy, borrow to subsidize special interest groups, and would not know what a balance sheet is.

DieterHH November 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

MIlan: .. Banks and other financial firms threaten the whole economy when they fail. As such, they need to be carefully regulated. ……. See above. Do you think the usual political hack is actually competent to “regulate” the banking system ?! See USA under GB and his cronies. Papandreos, Berlusconi ……. Need I say more ? When the voting public continues to elect incompetent nonentities ? When tabloid media and Reality TV occupy the fruit fly attention spans of most voters ?

Milan November 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm

You cannot just let banks collapse to teach bankers a lesson.

For one thing, depositors will be hurt much more than bank executives.

Bank executives probably won’t be seriously hurt at all – so letting banks fail doesn’t change the incentives they face when running them.

Also, banks are involved in all sorts of financial relationships with other firms. If you let banks fail, you are also likely to drive perfectly well run and solvent firms into bankruptcy along with them.

. November 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm
DieterHH November 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

Milan: .. You cannot just let banks collapse to teach bankers a lesson. For one thing, depositors will be hurt much more than bank executives … Yes I can – including depositors who ignore excess risk factors which bank executives condone. If in the case of Greece ( a horrible example ) depositors had engaged in some critical analysis regarding where their money was being invested ( Greek bonds ) maybe some conmmon sense might have prevailed. We cannot sit around on our little holier than thou pedestals and point fingers at the financial sector while ignoring the fact of political complicity, ultimately ourselves as uninformed voters. The issue is not merely criminal or high risk factor activity by financial institutions, but the absence of critical thought and supervision. I have to laugh at our education establishment that claims to instil habits of critical thinking ( ?? ) while graduating a population of citizens innocent of any understanding of the comnplexities of economics and financial instruments. It is mere flailing at windmills to focus on executive compensations and bonuses while ignoring the deeper multi variate root cause complexities. And assuredly a banker who screwed up will see his career prospects and bonuses revert to fast food reality.

. November 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Which Side Are They On?
How cops really feel about the Occupy Wall Street protests.
By Peter Moskos

DieterHH November 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I have argued that the financial crisis and unequal wealth distribution contains a large proportion of political failure. Why is it that our system of “democracy” seems incompetent when it comes to the governance of the global financial system ? I would suggest that in private enterprise culminating in the global corporation professionalism and executive talent is respected and rewarded in proportion to busines success as measured by profit. Pay at this level is typically in the $10Ms range, peanuts withing the context of the wealth ( and tax base ) created. From personal observation such individuals may have advanced degrees, specialist knowledge and broad executive experience and talent. They work 24/7 dedicated to their calling. Conversely we ( our local service club ) organizes the local “All Candidates Debate ” during provincial and federal elections. Having thus the opportunity to study their CVs and demeanor I regret that >90% of candidates have none of the above qualifications, being either partisan political hacks or entirely unqualified for any higher level of responsibility. Any semblance of financial sophistication being noticeable by its complete absence. These are the people we vote into office !! Having achieved electoral success their compensation as MPP/MP is mediocre and their personal lives subject to tabloid media scrutiny, certainly there is no intelligent debate over policy or economic reality. Deficit and debt become mere vehicles to buy votes. In the meantime the multinationals, financial institutions included, are managed by the best and brightest in the interest of their stock holders. Guess who wins ?!!

. November 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Chapel Hill police sent a heavily armed swat team to evict and arrest a group of some 80 Occupy Chapel Hill protesters who’d taken over a long vacant used car dealership (they also arrested members of the press covering the action). The police claimed the force was necessary because they’d been briefed that anarchist squatters use man-traps, and they believed this would be the case because the protesters had put banners in the windows and sited “strategic lookouts” on the roof. In other news: Chapel Hill police are credulous, dangerous dolts who set out to believe boogie-man stories about “anarchists” and seized on any rubric, no matter how farcical, they could find to support this a priori belief.

. November 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Police hand eviction notices to Occupy Toronto protesters

Toronto city staff have handed eviction notices to Occupy Toronto protesters encamped at St. James Park, saying that the occupiers must remove their tents and leave the area immediately.

The notice, signed by city manager Joe Pennachti, says the park is being occupied by a small group to the detriment of the majority, and that protesters have damaged the site and are interfering with winter maintenance.

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